GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy — The best collection of players at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club had flags from their eight countries draped around their shoulders as they took turns clutching and holding up the singular prize that turns them into one nation, one team, with one purpose every two years.
The celebration was familiar on European soil, and so was the winner of the Ryder Cup.
Team Europe, embarrassed at Wisconsin's Whistling Straits in 2021 as it suffered its worst loss to the United States, got its payback in full Sunday — along with the 17-inch gold trophy that goes into the possession of the winner of the biennial matches.
"Not many people gave us a chance, I don't think, especially two years ago," European captain Luke Donald said. "Well, we proved them wrong."
Europe now has seven straight wins at home dating to 1993.
This 44th edition of the Ryder Cup wasn't even particularly close, from Friday morning's opening session, which Europe swept for the first time, to Sunday's dozen singles matches that led to a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory for the hosts.
Rory McIlroy, in tears two years ago after his shabby performance on the shore of Lake Michigan, was among Europe's top players who quickly doused any American dreams of a rally near Rome. The four-time major winner from Northern Ireland beat Sam Burns to go 4-1 for the week, the first time the 34-year-old McIlroy has been Europe's top scorer. This was his seventh appearance in the event.
"I was so disappointed after Whistling Straits; we all were," McIlroy said. "And we wanted to come here to Rome and redeem ourselves."
England's Tyrrell Hatton, Norway's Viktor Hovland and Spain's Jon Rahm also picked up key points early in the singles lineup, leaving Europe needing only a half-point to reach the winning total. England's Tommy Fleetwood delivered the clincher, hitting a signature shot on the signature hole at Marco Simone: a drive that put the ball 25 feet from the reachable 16th against Rickie Fowler.
Fowler, now with a 1-8-5 road record in the Ryder Cup, hit into the water and wound up conceding the birdie to Fleetwood, who raised both arms to the loudest cheer of the week.
"I really didn't want to come down to one of us at the back," said Fleetwood, in the 11th spot in the lineup. "Just so happened to play a part — it was a bit bigger than I thought I was going to have when we saw the draw — but just so proud of being part of this team."
The Americans were confident, mainly based on their 19-9 victory two years ago, that they finally would win on European soil for the first time in 30 years. Well, they can now make it 34 years — at least. Their next chance is 2027 at Adare Manor in Ireland.
"I think the European team played some phenomenal golf. I think it really is quite that simple," U.S. captain Zach Johnson said, his voice choking to the point that it was hard for him to complete a sentence. "Team USA will be better for it. We'll figure it out."
Johnson is sure to face scrutiny for his six captain's picks, leading to perceptions they were as much about friendships as good form. The six U.S. team members whose presence in Italy was not determined strictly by performance combined to go 4-12-4 for the week.
Whether it would have mattered is hard to tell. Europe has the magic touch in these matches, particularly on its own turf.
"This is our time to shine, not because this is our stage. We are just taking care of it because of the amazing role models that we've had before us that have shown us how to do it," said England's Justin Rose, at 43 the oldest player in the Ryder Cup.
"A good pairing on the European team doesn't mean playing with your best mate. It means representing something bigger than yourself. And I feel like that's for me what being a European Ryder Cup player is all about."
Whatever hopes the Americans had Sunday didn't last long, even though as reigning champions they needed only a tie in the overall score to retain the trophy.
They needed to win the last five matches still on the course. England's Matt Fitzpatrick was in position to win the 18th hole for the clinching half-point with Max Homa buried in gnarly rough above the bunker. Homa, on the advice of caddie Joe Greiner, boldly took a penalty drop, chipped to seven feet and made the par for the full point.
Homa was a rare bright spot for the U.S. team, going 3-1-1 in his Ryder Cup debut.
The mettle came from Patrick Cantlay, whose hat led to the only real drama at Marco Simone, and led to more anger than McIlroy has experienced in these tense matches.
Cantlay was the only player not wearing a USA cap (he said it didn't fit right) but an unsubstantiated Sky Sports report Saturday morning said it was to protest not getting paid. Cantlay referred to the report as "outright lies."
The Europeans fans picked up on it, though, and heckled him endlessly, waving their caps at Cantlay at every turn. He never flinched, making three straight birdies to win a four-ball match.
McIlroy still had a putt to tie, and he was furious when he felt Cantlay's caddie, Joe LaCava, celebrated for too long and too close to the action, even when asked to move. McIlroy was seen that night being held back as he described the behavior as "(expletive) disgraceful."
"I was probably the angriest I have ever been in my career," McIlroy said. "I said to the U.S. guys I thought it was disgraceful what went on. I made that clear. I needed to calm myself down because I could have let it bring me down the wrong path."
McIlroy said he has texted LaCava, who previously worked for Tiger Woods, and they would move on from that.
Europe went into the singles session knowing no team had ever come back from a five-point deficit on Sunday. The Americans made their hosts sweat, but only briefly.
Rahm, No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, won the 18th hole to earn a half-point against top-ranked Scottie Scheffler. Hatton completed an unbeaten week by beating reigning British Open champion Brian Harman. Hovland put the first blue point on the board in a win over Collin Morikawa.
All Europe needed was one more halve, and Fleetwood assured that with a 2-up lead with two holes to play against Fowler.
The only mood that mattered for the home players and crowd was pure joy, with Europeans leaping into the water to celebrate a win they badly needed.
The Americans still lead 27-15-2 in the overall series in the Ryder Cup dating to 1927, which began as the U.S. against Great Britian, expanded to include Ireland in 1973 and then all of Europe in 1979. In that modern era, though, Europe has a 12-9-1 advantage.
Next up is Bethpage Black on Long Island in New York, renowned for its harsh fans even before the flags of two continents are involved.
McIlroy led a chorus of European players already hopeful that Donald, the 45-year-old Englishman who knew nothing but European victories in his four appearances as a player, will return as captain.
"I think one of the biggest accomplishments in golf right now is winning an away Ryder Cup," McIlroy said. "And that's what we're going to do at Bethpage."
LPGA: Rookie earns first victory
ROGERS, Ark. — Hae Ran Ryu completed a wire-to-wire run to her first LPGA Tour victory, a three-shot triumph at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
The 22-year-old rookie from South Korea had four birdies and an eagle in her last nine holes at Pinnacle Country Club to shoot a 5-under-par 66 and finish at 19-under 194 in the 54-hole event. Ryu, the LPGA Q-Series medalist last year, is projected to climb into the top 10 in the season-long Race to CME Globe standings.
Linnea Strom closed with a 64 to finish second.
After playing without a bogey while shooting 64s in each of the first two rounds, Ryu dropped two shots to lose her lead with bogeys on Nos. 2 and 5. After making the turn at 1 over for her round, Ryu had birdies on Nos. 10 and 12, then eagled the par-5 14th to move back ahead at 17 under.
She added birdies at 16 and 18 in a back-nine 29. Ryu became the fifth rookie to win this year, and the first on the LPGA Tour to do it while leading after every round since Patty Tavatanakit at the 2021 Chevron Championship.
"Last three holes I tried to not see the scoreboard," Ryu said. "Just focus on my play, and I made two more birdies."
Four golfers tied for third at 15 under: South Korean players Sei Young Kim (66) and Jenny Shin (67), Japan's Yuna Nishimura (68) and Bianca Pagdanganan (64) of the Philippines.
American player Lexi Thompson, an 11-time winner on tour whose most recent victory was in 2019, had a share of the lead after making four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 7 through 12, but she managed only one more birdie and finished in a tie for eighth.